PASO ROBLES — Unless someone has $5 million and some change lying around or knows a miracle worker, the Paso Robles aquatics center is not going to be built.
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District trustees followed staff recommendation and unanimously, 7-0, rejected the two bids the district received to build the swim complex at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
“The comments we heard, they are all justified. We have a real mess on our hands,” said trustee Chris Arend. “I don’t have any great solution for it. We’re
The base bids came in at $8.507 million and $9.578, respectively, well above the district’s $4.392 million remaining construction budget. The district spent a portion of the original $5.7 million budgeted to purchase 50-meter and 25-yard pools ($945,000) and for site demo and cleanup ($362,828).
The $5.7 million is what was allocated through voters passing Measure M in 2016.
The decision puts the future of the entire project in doubt and came after nearly an hour of presentation from PRJUSD Chief Business Officer Brad Pawlowski and comments and questions from the public and the board.
Pawlowski explained that the base bids covered everything associated with installing the two pools, a mechanical room, pool deck, locker-showers-changing areas, and bleachers.
The district also asked for three alternate bids for a public restroom, classroom-concessions and shade structure installation. The final tally to have everything built would have cost the district $11.790 million and $12.778 million, respectively.
Pawlowski’s also provided answers to probable questions as a result of rejecting the bids such as: Can the pools be sold? Yes, but the district anticipates a loss of 20-25 percent. The pools are under warranty but they will eventually expire.
He also tried to explain why the bids were so much higher than what was budgeted in the bond.
The initial budget approved by the board back in 2016 only covered the installation of a 50-meter pool and construction of a maintenance room. Priority B included the 25-yard pool, changing room-lockers, decking
Pawlowski, who was not employed with the district in 2016, did not have an answer as to why the full amount was not in the bond.
Some PRHS students, parents and members of the public spoke passionately about the pool.
The students realized the pool was not going to be a reality for their careers, but remained positive and asked trustees and the district to do the same.
Currently, the PRHS swimming and water polo teams use the city’s aging municipal pool for practice and games.
A top-notch swim complex on campus would allow the district to host major swim meets and water polo tournaments year-round as well as open it up to the community for use.
“I think it’s with the same hard work and persistence, the Paso Robles School District could pull together and make this happen for the kids,” said PRHS standout diver Cori Southward. “Not this year because of the tight financial situation, but we definitely don’t want to sell the pools or do anything rash. I feel like we could definitely make this happen. I know I personally won’t get to dive in this pool, but I would like to see it.”
Members of the public felt for the athletes and did not hold back in expressing their disappointment with the decisions of the previous school board.
“Basically they got everyone excited. They promised a pool that they could not complete and did not have the funding for and now we are close to $5 million short, we already bought the pools,” said concerned citizen Berkely Baker. “This is the most disastrous project I have ever seen. In my world, people lose their job for some outrageous as this. It should happen here for the people that put this forward. The community wanted a pool and you can’t deliver it after they voted you the money.”
Interim Superintendent Julian Crocker agreed with the decision by trustees and suggested the board should in the future “make a commitment to the pool or not.”
In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting trustees:
• Approved a proposal by the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education to conduct a superintendent search for PRJUSD for a fee of $1 plus any candidate travel expenses, any board of trustees
• Approved and awarded the contract for PRJUSD Flamson Middle School classroom addition to Klassen Corporation for $5.297 million (Measure M funds).
• Approved contract with Colbi Technologies for accounting program management software to help the district with tracking of General Obligation Bond Funds, Developer Fees, and Office of Public School Construction grants.
• Approved and adopted a resolution authorizing approval and full support of full-day kindergarten facilities grant program application.
• Approved of the amended agreement between PRJUSD and Boys and Girls Club of North San Luis Obispo County.
• Approved Public Agency Retirement Services Supplementary Retirement Plan for staff. Forty PRJUSD staff members have elected to take the PARS incentive, also known as the Golden Handshake, (30 teachers, one Certificated Management, seven Classified Staff, and two Confidential/Management). This is expected to save the district $498,048 over one year; $1.201 million over three years; and $1.608 million over five years.
• Approved Career Technical Education incentive grant for a welding trailer.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12. For more information, visit www.pasoschools.org.